Backpack vacuum cleaners are great for productivity. You can vacuum larger floor areas in significantly faster times with a backpack vac. But how do you get the most out of this type of vacuum? In this guide you’ll discover how to use your backpack vacuum cleaner safely and efficiently. We’re going to outline very simply how to work faster and get better results while avoiding risk and injury.
What you need to get started
• Backpack vacuum cleaner
• Hose and wand assembly
• Floor tool
• Dusting brush
• Crevice tool
• Disposable dust bag (synthetic or paper)
• Electric cord
• Suitable footwear
The L.A.W.S. of using a backpack vacuum cleaner
A great place to start this backpack vacuum cleaner user guide is with the L.A.W.S. of using all cleaning equipment. It’s any easy way to remember how to use cleaning equipment safely.
• Let the machine do the work.
• Avoid twisting and awkward postures.
• Weight over your feet – stand naturally and keep back straight.
• Share the load – take turns with your team partner.
It’s important to note that you are best not to use any kind of cleaning equipment unless you have been fully trained and know how to use it safely for the intended purpose.
What personal protection equipment (PPE) is required when using a backpack vacuum cleaner?
Personal protection equipment requirements may vary between different machine makes and some organisations will have different requirements and policies.
That’s why it’s important to…
• Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
• Always follow your company’s work health and safety policies and procedures.
As a general rule the PPE for using a backpack vacuum cleaner includes…
• Suitable covered footwear is essential.
• Ear muffs or plugs may be necessary depending on noise discomfort levels. Backpack vacuums with bypass motors are a lot louder than those with flothru motors so keep that in mind.
• On a building site, hard hats and other additional protection may be required.
• No loose clothing should be worn.
How to prepare a backpack vacuum cleaner for use and check it for safety
1. Unwind and check cord.
Unwind electric cords completely. Check for any damage or tangles by running your hand down the entire length of the lead before plugging it in.
2. Check test and tag.
Ensure electric cord has a current test and tag.
3. Be careful around water.
When water or liquid is present, be careful using any electrical equipment.
4. Check for damage.
Check equipment for damage before and after use. If damage is found, fit a “DANGER” tag and do not use the equipment until cleared by the repair agent or your engineering/maintenance department.
5. Check for obstructions.
Check the floor tool, wand, elbow (bent hand piece) and hose for any obstructions.
6. Consider ergonomics.
Consider ergonomic issues when moving or using the equipment. Never have the power cord plugged into the supply when attempting to lift, relocate or transport the equipment.
7. Clear and make area safe.
Ensure the area where the machine will be used is clear and safe to proceed.
Under no circumstances should an extra extension lead be used with this type of machine.
9. Adjust machine for comfort.
• Adjust the hose intake on the machine to your preferred left or right preferred side.
• Connect bent end piece on hose, wand and appropriate floor tool by twisting joints together.
• Loosen shoulder straps on machine to allow ease of fitting if required.
• Vacuum must never be lifted directly from the floor and onto the back in one movement.
• Adjust the straps so that the harness is firm against the back and hips allowing a finger to be placed comfortably under the strap.
How to start and use a backpack vacuum cleaner
Instructions on how to start and use a backpack vacuum cleaner may vary between different machines and organisations so always check the manufacturer’s instructions.
As a general rule, here’s how most backpack vacuum cleaners should be used….
Prepare the vacuum cleaner
1. Ensure the machine is checked for safety and adjusted to suit your body shape. Check that filters are clean and the dust bag is empty before you start.
2. Stand upright.
All use with a backpack vacuum cleaner should be done while maintaining your back’s natural curves.
3. Turn on.
Switch vacuum cleaner on using the rocker switch at the side of the machine.
4. Move floor tool across surface.
Vacuum the floor by moving floor tool across the surface in a to and fro motion overlapping slightly to complete the area to be cleaned. Ensure that while vacuuming you do not extend the floor tool so far away from your body and so far along the floor surface that your back bends.
5. Turn off.
To move from one area to another it is important to switch off the machine, switch off at the powerpoint, disconnect lead and move to new area, winding and unwinding the electrical lead completely from the machine end. This procedure is also required at the completion of each shift.
6. Filter and dust bag maintenance.
Dispose of and replace disposable dust bag regularly or when half full to ensure optimum suction is consistently achieved. Empty, clean and replace the cloth filter bag taking care to refit it correctly.
7. Remove and clean all filters regularly or at least weekly.
Backpack vacuum cleaner productivity tips
Consider these 3 tips to get cleaner floors faster.
1. Layout and condition of the area
• Find the most easily located powerpoint and use this as your start point.
• Consider the room layout including the position and type of chairs, desks, tables, fittings and other furniture.
• Ask yourself… “What’s the condition of the floor?” and “How dirty is it?”
2. Plan your vacuuming
• Plan the pathway you will take to vacuum the entire area or room to be cleaned.
• Decide which areas you will spot clean and what areas will be detail cleaned.
3. Be smart
• Always work away from the powerpoint that you are using.
• Use longer vacuuming strokes for detailed cleaning and shorter more targeted strokes for spot cleaning.
• Use a turbohead or powerhead with a brushing tool. This can further speed up cleaning especially on difficult to vacuum carpets.
Troubleshooting backpack vacs
Sometimes things go wrong with our cleaning equipment. It’s not always plain sailing. Don’t panic, there’s always a solution and sometimes it’s very simple if you know where to look. Here’s two of the big problems you might come across, what might cause those problems and how to solve them.
1. Vacuum not working
Cause: Power cord not firmly plugged into powerpoint, short lead or machine.
Solution: Check all plugs and sockets are firmly plugged in.
Cause: Power cord damaged or not working.
Solution: Replace power cord.
Cause: Shut off due to high motor temperature.
Solution: Turn main switch off and unplug the machine. Wait 30 minutes and try to restart or contact a repair agent.
Cause: RCD has tripped.
Solution: Reset RCD or circuit breaker.
2. Poor or no suction
Cause: Dust bag full.
Solution: Remove, empty and clean dust bag and/or replace disposable dust bag if full.
Cause: Dust bag not installed correctly.
Solution: Remove and empty dust bag making sure it’s fitted correctly.
Cause: Hose not installed correctly.
Solution: Reconnect hose and ensure it’s correctly sealed.
Solution: Remove hose, wand and floor tools. Remove any blockages.
Cause: Filters blocked.
Solution: Clean or replace filters.
Seven things to do when you’ve finished vacuuming
1. Always ensure a vacuum cleaner is turned off at the power source and unplugged before cleaning it.
2. Switch off the vacuum cleaner, disconnect the lead from the power and roll the cord from the machine end always avoiding twisting. As you roll the cord look for any damage or issues.
3. The vacuum cleaner should be stored in a secure location.
4. Ensure the vacuum cleaner is left in a clean and tidy state ready for the next user.
5. All attachments should be removed and stored suitably e.g. on a shelf or in boxes.
6. The vacuum cleaner bag should be emptied regularly or at the end of each shift.
7. Hoses and electrical leads should be rolled up and tied for protection against damage and ease of storing.
Before you go here’s 4 more helpful tips and potential hazards to consider for backpack vacuum cleaner users
1. Be aware. Slip, trip and fall hazards exist when operating a backpack vacuum cleaner.
2. Do not store other equipment or items on top of a backpack vacuum cleaner.
3. Do not place the lead over your shoulder while operating the machine. Trail the electrical lead behind you as you work.
4. Do not stretch leads by the use of excessive force. Caught leads should be freed from the obstruction before attempting to move further. The tugging and yanking of caught leads is potentially dangerous to the operator and the lead.
Hopefully this outline has given you some more insight into the safe and productive use of backpack vacuum cleaners. At XO2 we use this guide as a checklist in our live backpack vacuum training sessions. If you have a team that needs backpack vac training you are most welcome to use this resource to help.
Do you have any other helpful tips you can think of when using a backpack vacuum cleaner? We’d love to hear from you and add to this guide with your suggestions. We appreciate all the ideas and feedback so many people email to us. It makes the information we provide so much more relevant and helpful.